No right-minded farmer would light an illegal gorse fire and walk away, Teddy Creedon, who is an IFA Hill Representative on the West Cork County Executive, said.

Creedon was speaking to Agriland in light of the recent illegal gorse fires that took place in the Gougane Barra area close to the border of counties Kerry and Cork.

“We do not condone the lighting of these fires. We’re outside the burning dates, so it’s illegal. It’s not the correct way to go about it.

“We are in favour of working within the dates and burning in a controlled manner. It’s too late to burn at this time of year, as it is too dry.

Gone are the days when a farmer can throw in a match and just walk away from it.

The West County Cork branch of the IFA has previously organised burning courses for farmers, in conjunction with Skibbereen Fire Services, and plans to do so again in the future if the demand is there, Creedon said.

These courses covered issues such as how to light and control fires; detailed information on controlled burning procedures is available on the Department’s website.

Burning at this time of year makes no sense, as it will cause more harm than good, he added.

“It is too late and too dry to be burning. If you burn at this time of year you will damage the root structure and the fires will burn deep into the peat.

You will also be burning off any young growth of wild grass; all you want to do is burn off the top of it. No farmer is going to waste a month’s worth of feed.

“If fires get out of control they can also damage fencing, which can lead to a lot of extra costs,” he said.

Dates need to be extended

Creedon is also hoping that the dates for burning will be extended as part of the Heritage Bill to include the month of March – to allow farmers to carry out gorse burning in the correct manner.

The last few years have been very wet inside the prescribed time-frame, and gorse burning wasn’t an option; each year that passes more and more gorse accumulates, Creedon said.

At the moment conditions are too wet in February. Gorse burning won’t work without extending the deadline, he said.

We would be hoping that the deadline would be extended to the end of March, to allow farmers to carry out controlled burning.

“Most farmers would only be burning a section of land every six or seven years and putting it into rotation. It doesn’t make sense to burn the same piece of land every year,” he added.

Creedon said that if gorse burning is done at the right time of year, and in the right in manner, it can also be beneficial for wildlife and the environment. He also stressed that sensible farmers do not wish to be needlessly diverting the attention of the Emergency Services away from their primary role – saving lives.